Dubai, Dubai, Dubai. I can’t quite put my finger on what keeps drawing me back, but after six holidays in Dubai, it must be something special.
Is it the Dubai hotels, the beaches, the cutting-edge architecture, the first-class service or just the glitz and glamour that oozes out of every pore of this Arabian city in the desert?
Dubai is the city and capital of the emirate of Dubai and is often regarded as the premier destination in the Middle East. Frequent references to the world’s tallest, most significant, and grandest structures indicate how much Dubai is at the forefront of construction and innovation.
Whatever keeps me coming back, I know I like it, and I hope you will too, so I have compiled my fourteen favourite things to do in Dubai.
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Helpful Information about Dubai
Where is Dubai?
There is often confusion as to where Dubai is located. Is Dubai a country? Is it a city within a country? It can get quite confusing. It is located in the United Arab Emirates and is part of the Middle East. Abu Dhabi and Sharjah flank it on either side.
Getting from Dubai Airport to your hotel
The easiest way of getting around is by taxi. Pre-book your airport transfer with Welcome Airport Pickups.
Do I need to cover up in Dubai?
You will not need to cover up, apart from in religious buildings, but you need to respect the Muslim culture.
It would be disrespectful if you wore skimpy shorts and a crop top to the mall (though tourists do) or went to dinner in a see-through blouse and mini skirt. No rules govern what tourists wear, but try to dress conservatively.
Arab ladies will wear a burkha, a complete head-to-toe covering, and the men will wear a thawb, a white gown and a headdress. Of course, a lot of locals also wear Western-style clothing.
Can I drink alcohol in Dubai?
If you are over 21 and then only in hotels and restaurants.
Can I kiss in public?
It is advisable not to show affection in public as it disrespects the Muslim culture.
Best Time To Visit Dubai
The winter months are the most comfortable. In summer, the temperatures can rise to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, so it can be very uncomfortable, even if you have a swimming pool to cool off.
I have travelled in February, April, May, June and December; I would say April was the most enjoyable.
There are always religious festivals and sporting events in Dubai, and it is worth checking out when they will fall to know which dates are the best time to visit Dubai and when to avoid them.
Best Things to Do in Dubai
#1 Afternoon Tea at the Burj Al Arab
Who doesn’t want to see inside Dubai’s 7* luxury hotel, but gone are the days when you could turn up and wander inside to marvel at the extravagant interior.
To gain entry into the visually stunning interior, you must be a hotel guest or have a dinner reservation so what better way to experience it than the Burj Al Arab Afternoon Tea held on the 27th floor at the Skyview Bar?
From this height, you will enjoy a panoramic view of Palm Jumeirah, the famous palm-shaped island constructed in the ocean and maybe even witness a landing on the rooftop helipad.
Afternoon tea is a luxurious affair where you will enjoy finger sandwiches with delicious fillings, melt-in-the-mouth pastries, fruit and plain scones and a selection of the finest teas. Indulge in a glass of premier champagne.
#2 Burj Khalifa
Opened in 2010, the Burj Khalifa is a stunning feat of engineering and is currently the tallest building in the world, housing the Armani hotel and offices and apartments.
Soaring high above Dubai at 830m to the tip, this needle-like structure offers a birds-eye view of what Dubai and Palm Jumeirah island looks like from the top.
Buy tickets online to avoid the queues and prepare to be whisked up to the 125th floor in the world’s fastest elevator.
If you get peckish while up there, the 122nd-floor houses the world’s highest restaurant, while on the 148th floor, you will find the world’s tallest observation deck.
#3 Dubai Mall
This 12 million sq ft of shopping, dining and entertainment space is like nothing you will have ever experienced. Marvel at the high-end brands, including Hermes, Chanel and Louis Vuitton, be amazed by the grandeur of the world’s largest shopping mall.
Each tier in the mall showcases a particular product, from shoes and ladieswear to homeware and designer brands. The thought process behind this makes shopping a pleasure.
The mall also has a cultural Arabian area with more traditional shops, including one of my favourites, the Bateel date shop, selling the most delicious Medjool dates.
Get ready to be shocked at turning a corner and seeing one of the world’s largest suspended aquariums taking pride of place within the mall.
This 10-million-litre giant is home to thousands of aquatic animals, comprising over 140 species. Experiences are available online, and I can personally recommend the scuba dive to qualified PADI divers.
Both of my sons have dived here and found it to be an incredible experience, especially with all the shoppers eagerly watching from the other side of the glass!
The mall also offers an ice-skating rink, cinema and underwater zoo, and by walking outside, you will have the chance to witness the beauty of the lake and fountains that dominate the outside space.
#4 Dubai Fountains
Created by the company that built the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas, these giants are a spectacle to behold.
Located in the centre of the Burj Khalifa lake, they are, not surprisingly, the largest performing fountains in the world.
Activated every thirty minutes and illuminated at night, these musical fountains are one of Dubai’s centrepieces.
Evening shows begin at 6 pm and until 10 pm (weekdays) and 11 pm (weekends). There are also two performances in the daytime, at 1 pm – 1.30 pm (1.30 pm – 2 pm on Fridays).
The backdrop of the Burj Khalifa makes the whole performance even more awe-inspiring. I have seen the Dubai and the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas, and I prefer the ones here.
The area around them houses restaurants, so if you are lucky enough to get a seat with a view, this is a beautiful way to spend your evening.
Alternatively, stand with the crowds after spending time wandering around the mall and soak up the show.
#5 Aquaventure Atlantis
Perched on the Palm Jumeirah, this human-made island housing hotels, restaurants, and private homes is also home to the Atlantis resort with its 42-acre waterpark.
One of the fun facts about Dubai is that this Dubai landmark is that it is one of the largest waterparks in the world!
Featuring some of the world’s most exciting rides, this is a playground for the young and old alike, after all, who doesn’t want to slide down a transparent tube through a pool of sharks!! Don’t worry, though; they can’t get to you.
A day pass will allow entry to Aquaventure and The Lost Chambers and can be booked in advance to avoid long queues.
#6 The Lost Chambers Aquarium
The aquarium holds 11 million litres of water, making it slightly larger than the one in the Dubai mall and is home to 65,000 marine fish and mammals.
Ranked in the list as one of the world’s largest aquariums, it is easy to see why as you wander through the “themed” Lost Chambers that depict the lost civilisation of Atlantis, borne from the oceans.
Experiences are abundant, from scuba diving in the aquarium to underwater walking, known as aqua trek and snorkelling.
#7 Wild Wadi Waterpark
Dubai’s original waterpark, Wild Wadi, is in front of the Burj Al Arab. It has over 30 rides, and attractions themed around the tale of Juha, a well-known character from Arabian folklore.
This waterpark is smaller than Aquaventure and may be more of your style.
If you plan to spend a week in Dubai, you will have plenty of time to fit this and Aquaventure Atlantis into your 7-day Dubai itinerary.
#8 Dubai Marina
Dubai’s human-made marina is home to al fresco dining, designer chain stores and stretches of beach to relax on.
The luxury boats, cars and buildings that line the Dubai marina will make you gasp.
During the day, yacht cruises, jet-skiing, or a spot of skydiving offer thrilling experiences in Dubai.
Nighttime is when the marina comes alive with its illuminated skyscrapers, restaurants, and bars all vying for your attention.
# 9 Dubai Creek
Step back in time to experience Dubai’s past. For a few dirhams, you can hop aboard an abra (water taxi) and cross the water to Dubai’s old town.
Narrow streets spill over with shops. The Gold Souk, Spice Souk (a souk is a marketplace) and food stalls all tempt you with their wares.
There is an estimated 10 tons of gold in 300 shops in the Gold Souk. Don’t forget to haggle; it is part of the experience, and the shopkeepers expect you to have a go.
#10 Dubai Creek Dinner Cruise
If you feel like doing something romantic, consider booking a dinner cruise along Dubai Creek with Bateaux Dubai.
Take in views of historic Dubai through the glass-enclosed interior while enjoying gourmet cuisine aboard this luxury trip.
#11 Abu Dhabi
Visitors often get confused, believing that Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the same places – they are not. Only a 90-minute drive away, Abu Dhabi is perfect for a day trip from Dubai.
The Grand Mosque, Louvre and Ferrari World are some of the most popular things to do in Abu Dhabi.
More information is on my blog, five incredible things to do in Abu Dhabi.
The easiest way to see the sights of Abu Dhabi is on an organised tour from Dubai.
If you want to combine a holiday to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, why not do as I did?
Stay at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai and the Conrad Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi. This way, you experience two different parts of the United Arab Emirates.
#12 Desert Safari Dubai Experience
Many companies offer desert experiences, from dinners and dune bashing to camel rides and sandboarding, something for all requirements.
It is an excellent way to escape Dubai’s hustle and bustle for the desert’s peace and tranquillity.
If you have never been to a desert, it will be a real eye-opener, especially when you realise that only 30 years ago, this was how most of the country of Dubai looked.
You can also fully immerse yourself and stay a few nights in a desert resort such as Bab Al Shams Desert Resort, a one-hour drive from Dubai and the Anantara Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort, a 3-hour drive from Dubai.
I have spent a few nights at both of them and would recommend the experience.
#13 Dubai Miracle Garden
The Miracle Garden must be on your list of top attractions if you love flowers and plants.
Occupying over 72,000 sq metres, the Dubai Miracle Garden is one of the most beautiful flower gardens in the world. It features over 50 million flowers shaped into all structures, from aeroplanes to teddy bears!
It is only open from mid-November to mid-May. This is because the heat is too intense for the flowers during the rest of the year.
The Dubai butterfly garden is located next door. It is the world’s largest, featuring 15,000 butterflies of around 50 different species.
It is an indoor garden with ten climate-controlled domes that are the butterflies’ habitat and is open all year round.
#14 Dubai Frame
A new addition to the Dubai skyline, this 150m gold frame stands as proud as any other Dubai structure.
It houses a museum that shows the growth of Dubai from a fishing village to one of the wealthiest cities in the world. Online tickets can be bought in advance and include a half-day city tour if you are short on time.
Panoramic views of Dubai’s sprawling metropolis will be visible from the Dubai Frame.
Deira, the older part of Dubai, can be viewed from one side, while the skyscrapers of Bar Dubai, the newer part of the city, can be seen from the other.
The visible number of skyline cranes indicates that Dubai has not yet finished its transformation.
Places to stay in Dubai
Where to stay in Dubai city
I always stay at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, in front of the Burj Al Arab. The standards are first class, and you can use the amenities of the adjacent Jumeirah properties.
Where to stay in the Dubai desert
I have stayed at Babs Al Sham Desert Resort, a one-hour drive from Dubai and the Anantara Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort, a 3-hour drive from Dubai.
They are both beautiful and authentic resorts and give you a taste of life in the desert.
Please Pin for Future Travel to the United Arab Emirates
Friday 9th of September 2022
Dubai is a fabulous tourist destination. I have toured it twice before the pandemic and am craving to visit it again. I am happy to see that I did most of the things in Dubai mentioned in the post.
Dani De Leo
Wednesday 27th of October 2021
Dubai is indeed a must-go travel destination in the Middle East, especially during this winter season. You will enjoy every amenity and event in every nook and corner of the city.
Wednesday 28th of April 2021
Nice pictures! Thank you for sharing the best places in Dubai, next month i am planning to visit Dubai Its really helpful to me.
Wednesday 25th of March 2020
Is everything in Dubai this big and grand, kind luxurious? It does not seem like a place where you pack your flip-flops :D
Wednesday 25th of March 2020
Yes everything is OTT and very luxurious
Tuesday 4th of February 2020
I am not into the luxury type of vacation but Dubai has something that intrigues me a lot, I am happy I discovered a bit more about it through your post
Tuesday 4th of February 2020
I’m glad you found it useful. I am happy to do all kinds of holidays from camping and caravans to five star luxury and Dubai certainly has plenty of that to offer 😀